In many parts of the country, winter is not the time for your heater to stop working. Those of us in colder climates rely on our heating, ventilation and cooling system to keep us toasty when outdoor temperatures drop. And god forbid you wake up one morning to the heat not working – ugh – all you can think about is getting back to a warm, toasty house. (The second thought you have is why didn’t I think to address that weird noise I heard a few months back? And thirdly, am I going to be able to avoid a hefty home repair?)
Certain issues are unique to the type of heater you have, such as a gas or electric furnace or central heat. However, here are some of the most common heating system problems that homeowners should know:
The heater is blowing cold air
When your heater stops blowing warm air, the culprit may be a clogged air filter. Dirty filters can inhibit air flow and cause unnecessary strain on your heater or furnace, which often leads to faulty performance or system shut down. Clean or replace the filter to see if that fixes the problem.
If the issue the persists, examine your attic and other areas around your home for leaky ductwork. If you do notice leaks, you may need to seal the holes or boost your insulation. Another reason for the cold-air malfunction could be a lack of fuel, which causes your heater to run less efficiently.
The heater isn't producing enough heat
If your heater is running but only produces minimal heat, there may be something blocking the airflow. Alternatively, the thermostat could be on the wrong setting. A dirty filter could also be the reason for the lack of warmth.
The pilot light isn't working
Strong drafts or dirty parts can cause pilot lights on gas furnaces to fail. The Spruce advises trying to relight it by turning off the gas valve for a few minutes, and then switching it back to the pilot setting. Light a match and hold it near the opening while pressing the reset button on the control panel. Newer systems with electronic ignitions may require a sensor replacement to fix the issue.
It's turning on and off too frequently
An overactive heater can significantly increase your energy costs, so be sure to tackle this issue quickly. You know your heating system is short cycling when you notice short bursts of airflow, usually lasting between four and seven seconds, according to The Spruce. The reasons for the issue could be thermostat malfunctions, rusted sensors and dirty air filters.
The heater is making weird noises
If your furnace is making some unsettling sounds, such as rattling, chirping, booming, squealing or clicking, you won't want to ignore the noise. These sounds can indicate an array of heating system issues that will likely need repairing.
There are thermostat issues
When you can't find anything wrong with the heater itself, the problem is likely a thermostat one. Consider replacing the unit with a programmable thermostat for the highest energy efficiency.
There's a burning smell
If you notice even a slight hint of a burning smell, it's better to be safe than sorry. Turn off and unplug immediately. If you feel comfortable, inspect the unit for dust or other debris that may be causing blockages and creating the smell. Clean the blocked areas and replace the air filter before turning the heater back on.
The last thing you want is to be stuck without heating in the dead of winter. Practice preventative HVAC maintenance to preserve the health of your home heating system, and never hesitate to reach out to an HVAC professional for help with issues you can't troubleshoot on your own.
Being prepared for home repairs is always a good strategy. See how plans from HomeServe can help with the costs of covered repaired.